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Protected trees on your land: What you need to know.
December 28, 2014

Careful consideration should be given when buying a house with mature protected trees which may be within a Conservation area or have a Tree Preservation Order in place.

There are many factors to consider which may affect the owners:

  1. Shading which can block out natural light
  2. Restricted areas for planting new shrubs or trees
  3. Roots can cause damage to patios and pathways, and can also cause subsidence if the property is on shrinkable clay
  4. Trees such as lime and sycamores can attract aphids which can then deposit a sticky substance on cars and structures underneath the tree
  5. Leaves can be a nuisance as gutters can become blocked and driveways can be slippery
  6. TV reception may be affected by dense foliage or branches
  7. Obtaining a mortgage or insurance cover can be more difficult without an arboriculturalist’s report
  8. Extending the property near the TPO tree could be a problem

Yet all these points considered there are many advantages of owning mature trees such as:

  1. Nesting and feeding birds are attracted to trees
  2. Trees are a good habitat for small mammals including bats and insects
  3. They can act as a valuable screen for privacy or to obscure an unsightly view
  4. They can provide shade from direct sunlight
  5. They can provide sound insulation from busy roads
  6. They offer wind protection
  7. They absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gases and also release oxygen
  8. Trees help to maintain a water balance, removing trees reduces the amount of water absorbed and increases run off
  9. They have important amenity value
  10. They are a living legacy for future generations

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

TPOs were introduced in 1947 within the Town and County Planning Act. They are placed by the Local Planning Authority in order to ‘prohibit the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage or wilful destruction of a tree without the prior written consent of the LPA. A TPO tree or group of trees will have protection in place because they hold high amenity value.

How do I know if my tree is protected?

It is usual for solicitors to uncover in the local search within the conveyancing process any TPO. If you are unsure whether you are in a conservation area or your trees are protected you can phone the local planning department within your council and they will have information on your property. To make life easier many councils have now got an interactive mapping system on their website for the local area which will show any restrictions. If you are in a conservation area your tree is automatically protected if it has a stem diameter over 75 mm.

How to apply for tree works.

The same form can cater for both TPO trees and trees within a conservation area. Just because a tree is protected doesn’t mean you can’t apply for remedial works to be carried out. There are a number of ways of applying for permission for tree work.  If you are within a conservation area you must give written notice 6 weeks prior to any intended works. You can apply online through the planning portal or you can download a form from your local council website or if you prefer you may find it easier to phone the planning department at your local council and request an application form by post.

If you do receive the consent documentation from the council allowing tree work they will specify the work guidelines. If a tree is allowed to be removed for legitimate reasons it is usual for the council to specify a recommendation of the species and amount of trees to be replanted to mitigate the removal. There are exceptions to the rule; dead, dying and dangerous trees do not usually have to go through this process but the local tree officer should be informed first. Carrying out work without consent can lead to a fine of up to £20,000.

Who carries out tree works?

Please ensure that you choose a recommended arborist that works to BS3998:1989 and has all the necessary qualifications and public liability insurance.

Photo copyright Berit Watkin